Postcard from Bolivia

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Our last day in Peru was somewhat tainted as we were robbed while we slept on a night bus between Cusco and Puno, and lost, amongst other things, our camera with all the photos of the trip so far, including Machu Picchu. This left us with a bitter taste in our mouths and a massive sense of loss. It was therefore good to cross to Bolivia and start afresh on a new chapter of the trip.

We made our way across the border into Copacabana, a tiny little town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where we found a great hostel with a stone balcony overlooking the water. The next day, having missed the public boat, we chartered a private one with a group of random Slovenians (who we would then end up meeting periodically over the next week!), and headed over to the beautiful Isla de Sol. With no cars and therefore no car horns (Peruvians and Bolivians do love their horns!), the island was an oasis of calm in a blue, blue lake.  We had just enough time to hike over the lower part of the island, enjoying a lunch at one of the highest points that looked across to Isla de Lune, before we were accompanied back to the boat by a friendly dog. The rest of the day was spent lazing in the sunshine in Copa, enjoying an omelette and a not bad coffee by South American standards.

We booked a bus to leave to La Paz that night, but there was a fiesta at the border between Peru and Bolivia, which meant that our bus became more and more delayed. In the end the staff at the company advised us to go the next morning instead, as La Paz is not a place to be wandering as a gringo late at night. We therefore took up their offer of a discounted hotel room, and as luck would have it, friends of ours from the Salkantay trek turned up at the same hotel just as we checked in, meaning we ended up with a bonus night out with them.

One hurried breakfast later and we boarded an early bus to the Bolivian capital, which included a ferry ride to get across Lake Titicaca. I did fear that our bus wouldn’t make it, as it boarded its own rickety wooden boat.

I’m happy to report it, and our luggage, did.

La Paz wasn’t really our cup of tea. It was good to explore its winding back streets, where the markets sold evermore piles of interesting fruit and vegetables, plus the more exotic witches market (which sold dead llama foetuses – I think I have seen everything now!), but the constant noise and cars and horns and murderous drivers meant it was far from relaxing. Still, we found a great hostel where we could cook our own meals, which felt like a luxury after four weeks of eating out all the time!

From La Paz we girded our loins and got on another night bus – very wary this time – to the southwestern town of Uyuni. After ten hours on mostly unpaved Bolivian roads we arrived feeling like a James Bond cocktail – very shaken! Uyuni is not the prettiest place and the main reason people go there is to do a tour across the Salar de Uyuni, the salt flats. We booked a three day trip which included the salt flats plus visits to the lakes and volcanoes in the area, and a bonus hot springs visit at the end, which my brother and lots of other people had recommended. I had thought that being in a 4×4 for such a long period of time wouldn’t be the best, but each hour brought a new and varied landscape. A dazzingly white salt desert which stretched as far as the eye could see, a bright red lake with a slate grey middle, a twisted forest of rock trees – we couldn’t stop taking pictures and exclaiming in delight. Seeing pink flamingoes delicately stalking the water against a reflection of snowy mountains was a definite highlight.

Our time in Bolivia was short but sweet, and a real contrast in terms of landscape – a bustling city, a peaceful island lake, an isolated desert. These are places that will stay with me forever.

I would love to include more photos with these posts but have discovered that most hostel computers are  reeeeaaaalllllyyy slow and don’t take kindly to adding pictures! Maybe things will be easier in Oz…

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